Do Tommy and Martin practice modes?
I watched a couple of interviews with Tommy Emmanuel where he said that he can neither read tabs (let alone notes) nor can he play modes. When asked how to improvise he answered something like this "God gave you ears - use your ears!"
So, does Tommy Emmanuel really not know modes and play everything by ear? What is your take on it?
Same is true (to some extent I think) about Martin Taylor. He says he never thinks in terms of the modes but only in terms of the root and the third.
I am very curious what your answer is gonna be,
Thank you again for your great lessons!
emilernebro last edited by emilernebro
Another great question, thank you!
You definitely don't have to be able to read music, or know a lot about music theory become a great musician. BUT, having said that - I want to share a few things about this subject. Might be a long answer... sorry about that! :)
For some world class musicians, music reading is essential to be able to do what they do. It really depends on what kind of musician you are. If you're a freelance musician playing with lot's of different groups, touring and playing other peoples music a lot - then music reading can be very important - since reading charts, lead sheets with specific rhythms etc will help you learn things really quickly, and for great readers you can sight read on the gig without preparations.
Same thing goes for musicians that are part of orchestras, big bands etc. They all read together, and they need the music infront of them to be able to perform that piece of music, and the specific arrangement.
If you're a musician who plays mostly solo concerts or duo, trio settings you might not need anything infront of you to be able to perform that piece of music. Maybe a lot of it is improvised or you have the arrangements memorized.
When Tommy says that he can't play modes etc, he means that he might not use the names of the modes or could explain the exact theory behind it. But if you play any chord or progression for him, he can improvise over it - and he does use the right scales, modes and arpeggios - because he hears it. He knows those things as sounds and he hears exactly what will sound good - even if he might not have the theoretical explanations to why it works etc.
We have music theory to be able to talk about music, and teach others about music so that they can pick up things easier and faster. For some people, music theory can help a lot - to organize things so that you can use it musically when you're playing. It might give you "shortcuts" to why this sound works over that chord etc etc.. Or, I can use this arranging method in this part of the song, because I know the theory behind it and how it sounds in that particular progression.
For me, music theory can even help my ear to figure out things that I cannot hear right away. An example...
I might hear a progression, and suddenly something comes up that I cannot hear exactly what it is.. And then I might use my music theory knowledge to figure it out.. "Ok,.. so the chord before that tricky part was this... so that means, the next chord might be this!" - and 9 times out of 10, I've figured it out right away - using my music theory knowledge. This is just one example, but there are many times that the theory helps in similar situations.
Some world class musicians and guitar players that you know are well aware of music theory and can read music - and it has helped them in their musical journey and gave them opportunities and gigs to play that they wouldn't get if they didn't know music theory or if they could read.
Other world class musicians and players that you know, might not know anything about the theory or how to read music - but they still have great ears and KNOW all those things by ear but wouldn't be able to put the "sounds" into "words". And again, it all depends on what kind of musician you are and what type of work you do.
Music theory has always been interesting to me, and a way to explain things and share ideas with others.
I did a gig at a church the other day, and I was supposed to play 3 songs at a wedding (solo guitar).
All of a sudden, they asked me to also play a specific hymn in the background as part of the wedding ceremony. I had never heard the hymn - but since they had the song written out, and the chord symbols above - I was able to play the hymn together with the melody (like a simple chord melody arrangement) on the spot. I would've never be able to do this if I didn't have a music reading or theory foundation in my "back pack". This is just one example of situations that truly taught me that for me - it's a benefit to know these things.
Sorry for a long answer, but I hope you got something out of this!
thank you for your clarification! I really enjoyed it!
As for me your answer could not be long enough :)
I have been trying to go to both the extremes - either to play everything by ear or by theory. And I failed ha-ha-ha.
But what is slowly slowly coming out of it is the understanding that every one of us finally has to find his /her own way to master those sweet "secret" tones.